GREENHOUSE TOMATOES - CULTURAL CONSIDERATIONS OF A GROWING INDUSTRY IN MISSISSIPPI

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  • 1 Truck Crops Branch Experiment Station, Cooperative Extension Service, Miissippi State University, P.O. Box 231, Crystal Springs, MS 39059.

Production of greenhouse tomatoes, while not new to Mississippi, has increased in the past 4 years to an industry of noteworthy size. This specialized industry in Mississippi has faded in and out of popularity over the years, as new growers have sometimes been stimulated by greenhouse supply companies looking for prospective customers. Often, rumors of incredibly high yields, consistently high demand and price, and minimal problems with pests and culture have encouraged novice growers to start in such a big way as to make it impossible to pay off their debts.

With strong support from the Extension Service and the Experiment Station in Missiippi, the number of grown has increased from a handful to 71, utilizing 224 free-standing or gutter-connected greenhouse bays, occupying 12 acres under plastic. This has placed Mississippi within the top 10 greenhouse vegetable producing states in the U.S. and has helped to build a $1.8 million industry. University support has taken the form of: 1) monthly Vegetable Press Newsletter, 2) annual Greenhouse Tomato Short Course each April, 3) Greenhouse Tomato Handbook (1992). 4) organized Greenhouse Tours. 5) a greenhouse tomato production video now in the planning stage, and 6) excellent support by Plant Pathologists and Entomologists.

To support these growers, most of whom are new to greenhouse tomatoes, a number of culturally based experiments have been performed at the Truck Crop Branch Experiment Station. These have included evaluation of heating systems, media, varieties, biological control, fog cooling, and bumblebee pollination.

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